Fabien Cousteau’s Plant a Fish brings yet a new approach to ocean preservation. Contrasting with Sylvia Earle’s famous “Hope Spots” where designated Marine Protected Areas allow the fish population to grow healthy again, Plant a Fish is founded on the basic principle of “planting” a specie that has been depleted. Fabien hopes to help the oceans get back on its feet, encouraging people to connect directly with their environment to better understand the state of urgency we are facing. Concretely Fabien talks of “planting” oysters in New York’s Hudson river (one of the forgotten role of Oysters and Hurricane Sandy a must read!) and Vermont’s Potomac, corrals in the Maldives and Florida, sea turtles in Salvador, and mangrove in Florida.
“Change comes with the support of the community” says Fabien, blue marbles in his eyes. He explains that different communities around the world support different “gardens”, the mangrove and coral initiative in Florida is supported by local schools,the program in the Maldives by a local resort, and the turtle garden in Salvador by local non-profits.
“To witness high school students spending time in the mud planting mangroves in Florida is a hopeful sight. Two major things happen when teacher/students interact in such setting, the first one is they connect with their environment, the second while connecting, they learn and get empowered to become ocean defenders”.
“Now,how do you plant sea turtles?” I ask candidly. Fabien laughs “You take the shell push it in the sand and water it often!”his contagious smile dissipates,he is back being serious explaining that the planting really happens in preserving the eggs of the endangered sea creature. In Salvador, Plant a Fish is involved with the tortugueros. The same local men that used to harvest sea turtle eggs (from June to December) to sell and eat, are now working for PAF “We pay them to do some basic daily scientific tasks like counting, measuring eggs, and also monitor potential threats to create the best possible conditions for the eggs to hatch”. Fabien then explains that the Tortugueros have interacted with local scientists and are starting to understand the importance of preserving such an endangered species. “But let’s be honest there is more to it than to just educate, these people need jobs and money for their family and to support the community”. PAF provides these science based jobs as a first steps, the next one are to partner with local businesses to help the tortugueros to find a new seasonal job in the tourism trade.
Now for your audio pleasure here is a short clip of the interview en Français with Fabien during the Blue Ocean Film Festival in Monterey. It is in French and somewhat noisy as we were having the world most sour espresso in a Monterey coffee shop. Fabien explains that about 600 students take part in the mangrove project in Florida, 860 tortugueros and their family plant turtles on 5 different beaches in Salvador, in the Maldives about 250 people a year plant corals and mangroves.
Plant A Fish Fabien Cousteau Interview Clip by Nico Danan
I have always thought that backing off, letting mother nature do its thing, was the best way to support healthy Oceans. That being said Fabien and his Plant a Fish organization shows that we can intervene in a positive way and help species like the iconic mangroves ( the nursery of the coral reef ecosystem) , come back in places where they have disappeared completely. It seems that to combine MPAs and Plant A fish initiatives around the globe would greatly benefit our oceans and its health, contributing to healthy sustainable fisheries. Discussing with Fabien, I am amazed that not more of the tropical resorts around the world embrace a program like Plant a Fish. After a day at the beach, on vacation, snorkeling with the family, what a better way to end the afternoon than to go plant mangroves for a couple hours… Add a biologist on staff and you have the greatest learning family activity! You own or manage a resort get in touch with Plant A Fish and start your own garden now.
I have known Fabien Cousteau for 15 years, I have worked with him as a safety diver on his great white shark CBS special “Mind Of A Demon”, I have the pleasure to count him amongst my good friends. What I have learned in 15 years is that Fabien is a talented, passionate and very meticulous person. From taking apart (and even putting back together!) every motorcycles he owns, to fiddling for hours repairing a crucial part of a rebreather on expedition, Fabien is good at solving puzzles. In between the communities, the environment and the socio-political contexts that Plant a fish evolves in, I can see what a challenging puzzle Fabien is tackling and how his particulate skills will make him succeed, but not without your help. To carry out his different projects, Aquaman needs your help to donate time or money, consider giving both.